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Vilsack announces new initiative tackling climate change during visit to Lincoln University

Ag secretary says partnership program will include underserved, minority producers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $1 billion climate partnership program during a visit to Lincoln University Monday. 

The USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities would finance pilot projects from farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who take steps to use climate-smart practices and measure greenhouse gas and carbons, among other things. 

“It’s designed specifically to expand markets for U.S. agricultural products and foresty products through voluntary deployment of conservation practices,” Vilsack said in his announcement. 

Funding comes from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to support producers and landowners who practice climate-smart practices, efficiently verify and measure the benefits of carbon and greenhouse gas, and market their project’s climate commodities.   

The secretary said the program will be committed to including minority farmers in the projects.

“As we look at applications, we want to make sure that those applications include provisions relating to how they’re going to reach out to underserved producers to incorporate them in the program,” Vilsack told The Missouri Times. 

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is joined by Lincoln University President John B. Moseley as he tours the school’s Cooperative Research Charles E. Dickinson Plant and Soil Science Greenhouse Complex and talked with students. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/JAMES TURNER)

Proposals for grants of $5-$100 million are due April 8, and proposals for smaller grants are due May 27. 

Vilsack touted Lincoln University’s agricultural program and its role in the advancement of climate progress.

“I know this university, Lincoln University, is dedicated to educating the next generation of new leaders and thinkers in agriculture,” Vilsack said

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack observes materials in Lincoln University’s Greenhouse during a visit on Feb. 7, 2022. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/JAMES TURNER)

Vilsack toured Lincoln’s Cooperative Research Charles E. Dickinson Plant and Soil Science Greenhouse Complex and spoke with students in the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program, an agricultural scholarship program for Historically Black Land-Grant Universities.

“I think [President Abraham] Lincoln would be proud of Lincoln University,” Vilsack said.

“We appreciate U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack visiting Lincoln University to discuss USDA’s latest climate initiative. We still need to see more detail but appreciate the secretary’s acknowledgment that farmers and ranchers are front-line conservationists,” Garrett Hawkins, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, told The Missouri Times. “Regarding climate policy, we are focused on farm resiliency and ensuring farmers have the tools needed to continue to produce food, feed, fiber and fuel while conserving our natural resources.”

“Frankly, Missourians know how to do common-sense conservation, as shown by the state’s soil and water cost-share program,” Hawkins continued. “We have a great story to tell, and Farm Bureau is working hard to make sure farm and ranch families are recognized as environmental stewards.”

A former Iowa governor, Vilsack was confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Agriculture in February 2021 and previously served in the position during the Obama administration.